What if you could know what a market wants to buy, read, watch, listen to or consume before you invest the time, money and effort in creating it for them?
I’ve written in the past about what I call “dirty market testing” – ways to test an idea for little or no money in a matter of minutes – in Career Renegade. Dirty market testing can give you a quick, intuitive and even data-driven hit on market interest, need and desire. But the data is largely quantitative (numbers), not qualitative (words, emotions and other fuzzy stuff), so it can often leave out a high level of nuance needed to more accurately get deeper context or the true beat of a particular market or community.
Both types of data are important (along with your own intuitive hit). Problem is, traditional interview and focus group driven qualitative data is notoriously inaccurate. The quality of the answers often depend largely on the artfulness of the questioner, and many are without art. And even when good interviews and group experiences are conducted, the average participant often answers, based not on how they truly feel, but on how they believe the questioner wants them to answer or in a way that would allow them to fit most easily into the group. I would never make a significant business or content creation decision based on this type of qualitative data.
But there is another type of qualitative data can be extremely valuable and far more accurate. In large part because it doesn’t happen under the clear observation and bright light of a “researcher.” But also because your subjects generally have no idea they are subjects in your market research, so their ideas, answers and responses tend to be far more truthful. Because they’re simply participating in engaging conversations across the transom of social media over time, often behind the anonymity of the screen, which adds yet another layer of protection from retribution and tends to increase transparency.
I call this Social Market Testing.
Rather than occurring in one planned burst, it happens over time. And it leverages, as its core vehicles, blogs, facebook and twitter as a vehicle for stealth market-insight oriented listening and analysis.
For example, earlier this year, I launched a new business and lifestyle media and education venture called Good Life Project. Though it seemed to come out of nowhere (and there’s still a ton that’ll come to life), I’ve actually been testing interest in elements of the brand for a number of years through my various social media communities.
On my blog, I write about the inersection between lifestyle, business, relationships, mindset and health. I share similar ideas, questions or soundbites on twitter and facebook. And, here’s the important part, this isn’t just about me talking.
Once I seed an idea, I almost always end with a question that provokes a conversation. I do this for two reasons. It often generates wonderful, engaging, valuable conversations for the community and reveals ideas for future posts and conversations. But I sometimes also…
Provoke conversation as a way to gather “soft” market data about potential business ideas.
How do I do this?
On the blog, I gage interest using a combination of quantitative and qualitative metrics. On the numbers side, I note:
- How much traffic a post drives
- How many times it’s shared across social media
- Which platforms it gains the most traction on
- How many comments come in
- The velocity and duration of comments (how fast they come in and how long the conversation stays strongly active) and
- The level of cross-commenting (how actively commenters agree or disagree with each other, rather than me).
Then I move to facebook and twitter and do the same anaylsis, tracking shares, retweets, velocity and duration.
After that, I dive into the content, context and sentiment of the social content generated by my original “seed” content. I observe:
- The general level of agreement of disagreement
- The identification of aspects or elements of a position I’ve potentially overlooked or (sneaky, sneaky) intentionally not addressed because I want to create the space for certain ideas or arguments to emerge from my communities and track whether my community come up with the ideas, pain points or areas of potential delight without me prompting them
- The strength of the language used (“you’ve got to be insane to believe…” versus “Gee, I’m not sure I totally agree with that…”)
- Clarification of my original ideas or the introduction of totally new ideas
- Which soundbites people pull and highlight on facebook and twitter (I often plant certain sentences or quotes that I think represented the most compelling ideas to see if people agree with my emphasis by independently pulling them out and sharing them as their main pull quotes or tweets across social media.
And I wouldn’t just do this once. In fact, I’m doing it all the time across every platform.
If I have an idea for a business, product or solution and I think I’ve identified 5 potential pain points, there’s a pretty good chance that, over a period of weeks or months, I am going to write about each of the 5 and then do the above analysis to help figure out which, if any, are the real major trigger points or potentially help identify ones I may have missed entirely.
And, it gets even better, the qualitative date you get from this process essentially writes your marketing for you. I identifies the conversations already going on in peoples’ heads, the language they’re using to communicate it and how much each trigger, pain, delight or other factor really matters. That allows you to craft messaging that used the precise language your market is already using, which ratchets up rapport, likeability and influence (use only for good, people, never for evil).
Point of all of this is, social media, approached in a more nuanced, deliberate way, can be a vehicle to not only express yourself, cultivate your craft and build a robust platform, it can also be an astonishingly powerful source of both quantitative and qualitative market research and give you far more confidence that you’ve got it right before investing real time, energy and money in a larger venture.
But, you need to be willing to go just a bit further.
So, what do YOU think about this?
Have you ever done it before? If so, how has it worked for you?
If not, how might you leverage this approach to Social Market Research in the future?
And, one last question…
Do you find this at all a little bit creepy, or does it make total sense and feel good to you? Because, right now, large companies are mining your social data on a level that makes this look like kids’ play.
Share your thoughts in the comments below…
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